We knew it was coming. We knew it for a few weeks now. But the shock of her absence is still breathtaking.
It is difficult to fathom--much less describe--what it feels like to have a tiny little creature underfoot, around the corner, curled up on the couch every single day of your life for 17 years. Granted, there were vacations, trips, etc. here and there. But were talking more than 6,000 days together.
I've been home without her now for about 3 hours. The pain is acute. And yet I have forgotten and remembered her departure more times than I can count. I wonder how many more times I'll forget. I just can't believe she is gone.
I'm afraid of going to bed tonight or waking up tomorrow. I don't want to feel that pain of knowing I won't have to feed her breakfast. I dread the quiet--no morning meows for food. No snuggles beside me as I have my coffee before the boys wake up. Oh that time will be so, so lonely.
In the meantime, I want to remember...
It was 1999. I was 23 when I went to meet with a vet about the best kind of dog for apartment living. I just finished housesitting for friends who had 2 amazing dogs. And I wanted one! So they connected me with their friend, a vet, who was a perfect resource for the kind of dog and where I could find one.
I laugh now, thinking I must have had "sucker" written on my forehead. While I was in the waiting room, this tiny, black kitten came trotting across the floor, very unsteady on her feet. Before I knew it, I was driving home with a box in the passenger seat in which this tiny black kitten sat. I called my mom from my "car phone" (a la 1999) crying about this kitten I was driving home.
I'll never know for sure, but I imagine there was some feral cat in her blood. She was a wild one. She loved and guarded me fiercely. But she did not want one more friend. My friends and family learned quickly to let her have her space and just stay out of the way.
Her loyalty toward me morphed into years of being as near to me as possible. On occasion she would put a hole in my jeans trying to climb up my leg to find a spot on my lap. Most of the time, however, she just curled up right beside me on the couch or in the bed.
We found each other in Winston-Salem while I was in graduate school. We made our way down to Greenville where we settled into an apartment and then our first owned home! After living in the townhouse for 5 years, we headed north to Charlottesville. Oh that trip! Needless to say, that 6 hour drive was, I'm sure, the worst day of her life. But we made it!
She loved the screened-in porch in our townhouse in Greenville and then in our apartment in C'ville. It was there that she got to know what life was like with two people in her home. She and Andrew mostly tolerated each other. But every once in a while I'd see her rub up against his leg.
Seven years ago we made our last move, into our family home. Her favorite spots were in front of the fireplace, in the glider in the nursery, on the foot of our bed (though as she aged, it was harder for her to get up there), or snuggled on the couch on a blanket.
When Henry was born, Zip was still quite feisty. She wasn't a snuggle bug. But she was kinder to him than I thought. I wondered if she would even be safe around the boys.
Once in a while, as Henry grew, she would swipe at him...and on occasion get him. He wasn't a fan. And then, about 2 years ago, we discovered she had an overactive thyroid. After trying medication that nearly poisoned her to death, we got her on a diet that regulated her thyroid and she became a different cat. She was incredibly tolerant of the boys, let friends pet her, came out to hang when guests were over. It was wonderful to see her mellow out.
Beckett was still so young when this transformation occurred that he was never really afraid of her. As a result, the two of them had quite a special bond. I remember one time he had gotten in trouble and was sitting in a special place to calm down. There was a sudden halt to his cries. When I peaked around the corner at him, Zip had come to check on him and as he petted her, he immediately calmed down. It was beautiful.
One last story. We had friends over one Friday evening in mid January. At some point, without us knowing, she got out the front door. This was terrible news. First, it was VERY cold out...as in weather in the teens and she was only a whopping 7 lbs soaking wet. Second, we were leaving for a week-long vacation to Disney World before dawn on Sunday.
Sunday early morning came and we had still not found her, even though all sorts of friends searched and searched for her all day Saturday. I was heartbroken but I knew we had to take this trip. We were in Orlando, on the shuttle bus from he airport to the hotel when I got the call: WE FOUND HER!!! My precious neighbors had done it! And Zipporah had done the impossible, survive two nights in the frigid cold. The vacation was every sweeter knowing my dear girl was safe at home.
I'm still in shock that she is really gone. I just don't think I will fully absorb it for days, maybe weeks. In the meantime, I am left with a heart of so much love for this little creature who stumbled across my path and made me a momma.
Oh I love you, Zipporah. You will be so, so missed.